Hotel owner arrested over St Patrick's Day disco deaths
Detectives investigating the deaths of three teenagers at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown on St Patrick’s Day have arrested two men.
Hotel owner Michael McElhatton, 52, was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.
It is understood the other suspect, 40, is a member of the venue’s door staff. He was also arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.
Both suspects are in police custody.
It comes after police today said it was fortunate that more people did not lose their lives in a crush outside the hotel following a crush on Sunday night.
Students Lauren Bullock, 17, Connor Currie, 16, and Morgan Barnard, 17, all died from their injuries.
Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said: “Bad enough, a horrendous tragedy, but we could easily could be looking at more.”
Eyewitnesses have described chaotic scenes and police confirmed people were trampled underfoot.
Police have said youngsters will not face police action for being under age if they come forward, in a bid to encourage people to tell their stories.
Mr Murray said CCTV footage indicated that between 350 to 400 people had either been in the queue or the nearby area when the incident unfolded.
Officers have traced 160 witnesses and are conducting interviews, adding that they intend to speak to many more over the coming days.
Buses let youngsters off outside the popular nightspot before the disaster happened.
Mr Murray said there was an extended “crush situation” outside one of the doors to the hotel function room.
He praised those in the crowd who worked hard to get party-goers who had fallen down back on their feet when others were falling on top of them.
That created space in the crowd to rescue people.
The senior officer added: “This is an event that should have been a celebration and it has turned into every parent’s worst nightmare.”
Counselling services are being provided to those affected and prayer services have been held.
Mr Murray said some parents expressed concern that their children, who may have been under age, were trying to enter a licensed premises.
He said Northern Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron had agreed that it would not be an issue in this investigation.
He added: “I want to reassure you, the focus of our investigation is not the age of people who were at the event – it is about trying to find answers for the families of the three teenagers who tragically died – we need to know what you saw so the heartbroken families of Connor, Lauren and Morgan know what happened to their children.”
Eboney Johnston, 16, who was at the front of the queue to get into the hotel on Sunday evening, described the horrific events that led to three people losing their lives.
She said that pushing was “normal enough” on a night out, but added: “It just kept going and going and people just started to fall, but as one person fell another went down.
“As a person went to lift another person up they were pushing and shoving and another person would fall, which caused a build-up of everybody lying there.
“We looked down and you could just see everybody lying there and then you could just see Connor himself being took out.
“It was just such a tragic situation. We are just all so lucky that it was not any of us. We nearly feel guilty because it was not us, we nearly feel bad, the families, what they are going through, it is awful.”
Pupils at Holy Trinity College were joined by their counterparts at Cookstown High School and St Mary’s in Magherafelt for a memorial service for the three victims.
Isabel Russell, principal of Holy Trinity College, urged pupils not to bottle up their concerns.
“Talk to the staff, talk to your parents, and let them know what is on your mind. Keep yourself busy, get on with your normal routine as best as you can,” she added.